According to a recent poll and subsequent online discussions, pay cuts aren't an issue for most of our poll takers, if their needs are being met. Many have accepted that the economy is mostly to blame and feel that their situation is temporary.
But what exactly do people need in order to accept a pay cut? That's what varies. In the short term, it's just a job - any job - with a paycheck. And many unemployed are struggling to find just that. But in the long term, a career with meaning and purpose that suits individual and personal goals will sustain most.
Advice and Real Stories
For those who are currently employed in a job that they dislike, Kathy Robinson, career and business consultant and founder of TurningPoint, a Boston career counseling firm, says that fears about money and taking a pay cut often cause people to procrastinate leaving a job.
"Afraid of taking a pay cut? Start saving money now, and see a financial planner," says Robinson. "In the big picture, it will be better if you create a plan and you take a little longer, than if you push yourself and end up without your basic needs met."
Here are four compelling stories from our LinkedIn group discussions:
Being Employed More Important Than Raise
In February 2009, I was working for a large construction company when they had sent out a company-wide email stating they would be doing salary adjustments throughout the year of 2009. Instead, in June 2009 I was laid off and haven't been able to find another full time job since. I would have definitely taken a salary cut just to have stayed employed.
- Peter Orlando
Pay Cuts Are Better Than Layoffs
(I would take a pay cut) if I didn't need higher income or if I could work near or from home. I think we all agree that working is always better than not, so taking a pay cut from the last job would be better than being unemployed, but it needs to be weighed against future impact.
(Being recently employed), I'm also still trying to help others by passing along job opportunities or recruiter contacts that I still receive daily. I'm passing these on to my LinkedIn friends who are still looking for work and have shared their resumes (my personal "Pay It Forward"). I think Peter's story is indicative and parallels thoughts expressed in the long-running unemployment extension discussion - that it's better for a company to reduce staff and pay levels rather than have a company go under and have everyone become unemployed (but this is little solace to those who are let go... especially in this terrible economy).
I was out of work more than not since 2007 because my multi-year contract ended just as the economy and that industry started deep decline, and all I was able to get since then were short term contracts (typically to fix a mess created by others: very stressful). I wish employers would give those who are unemployed (or about to become so) the options of working for less before deciding to eliminate them or their job (I suspect almost all of us would rather have a lower paying job than none at all)!
- John Muench, who recently landed a job
Costs Keep Rising
Of course I would take a pay cut for a new job. But the thing is, when are these prices are going to come down for food, gas, health insurance, etc.? People with jobs were telling me they haven't had a raise in pay for the past three years and how hard it is for them to make ends meet. So basically taking a pay cut is something to really consider about the future. Will you be able to buy a gallon of milk? I mean it was $1.88 a gallon a month ago, and then it was $2.25 a gallon two weeks ago, and now it's up to $3.45 a gallon. I'm looking at all kinds of jobs besides my professional field. I need a job now.
- Laura Paris
Temporary Pay Cut Turned Into Great Career
I was in a situation a few years ago where I was working some very long hours for a boss that I just couldn't get behind. I had invested nearly 10 years in this very large, successful company and had learned so much during my time there, I was struggling with my feelings of loyalty versus frustration. I looked into other opportunities and nothing really fit so I stayed. One day I got a call from another local, small company trying to recruit me. I explored the opportunity but really struggled with my feelings of loyalty, not to mention, it would be a substantial cut in pay and benefits.
Coincidentally, shortly after that, someone from the main office sent out a spreadsheet with salaries for my workgroup inadvertently attached. I found that my peers with less seniority and managing smaller facilities here in Maine were being paid $12k more than myself. My boss mishandled the conversation when I approached him and threatened me with termination if I went to HR with the issue, so I walked.
I will have been (in my new job with a new company) five years in January and I have never looked back. The temporary cut in pay was more than worth the rewards I have gained from working for a small company. In my new position, I had the ability to make decisions every day that directly affected the success of the company. My experience allowed me to bring a fresh perspective to the operation of that company and was welcomed. Since then, I have moved up within the organization a couple of times and I'm still happy to come to work every day. I love the challenges and the rewards. My pay has now more than recovered from the move. My work and home life has found a balance that I had never enjoyed when I was with that other company.
- Aaron Huotari
More Quick Bites from Poll Takers
If you ever find yourself frustrated, lack of clear goal setting is probably the reason.
- Rich Binekey, LinkedIn
I would consider a lower offer in either the for-profit or non-profit sector if the company had a mission that I could get passionate about and benefited others. Quality of life and relationships with others can account for some lost dollars.
- Gary Ostermueller, LinkedIn
I once took a job that cut my pay in half. I had to re-arrange my life and make financial sacrifices but I felt like it was important and worthy work. Not only did I love going to work every day, but I really felt like I was making a difference. It turned out to be the best thing I'd ever done. It took my career in a new direction and I learned a lot while I was making a satisfying contribution.
- Rebecca Hobbs, LinkedIn
I took a pay cut for my job. However, the benefits far outweigh that pay cut. Also, the company is in a position that they want to put invest in a lot of technology ala Citrix, server virtualization, so far and so forth. Plus you can't really put a dollar amount on going into your job and not having to force yourself to do so.
- Samuel Markie, LinkedIn
The selections for the poll are fine, except they leave a critical answer and that is that I would take a position, even with a pay cut, to simply get back into the workplace and off of unemployment.
- Don Gorga, LinkedIn
It would have to have some serious benefits.
- Teresa Limeburner, Facebook
Based on the options offered I would select the Flexible Hours / Telecommuting option for less pay, but that would be my second choice. The #1 reason I would switch to a lower paying job is to have a more creative position.
- Donna Hunter, Facebook
I just have to get back to work and doing something different while looking for that right job.
- Cyndy Duffy Vanasse, Facebook
If it was close by and something truly interesting with excellent future possibilities.
- April Daquay, Facebook
I keep seeing the question "Under what circumstances..." Answer: most any, if I'd be happier and enjoy the job more.
- @counselorkim, Twitter
Funny, the poll doesn't include the option to: "take a pay cut in order to HAVE A JOB.
- @HandyAuntJo, Twitter
A pay cut? Hmmm. Free pizza every day, less than five minute commute, waterfall, cats in the office, and following my passion.
- @LeeAnneWard, Twitter
The option to pursue your own business venture generally equates to an initial pay cut. Working non-stop since I was 16, all the while pursuing educational goals and moving up over and around in different companies, I came to the realization that I owed it to myself to try and create an opportunity to truly reap what you sow. Whether it will pay off at the end of the day is still undecided, but I have put myself on a path of change, which is an adventure in itself.
- Kevin Bellerose, LinkedIn
Well, I've been putting in 12+ hours a day dealing with recruiters over the past six weeks since my last contract ended, interviewing, traveling, etc. on my own dime and I'm getting backed into the corner from a financial perspective. Yes, I would consider a pay cut, even with my 30 year global tenure, just to be gainfully employed again. I'm in the wireless/fiber industry and the dam is going to break soon, hopefully.
- Jeffrey Chehovits
I would like to know where the jobs are that will pay me what I was making. I've been out of work for 11 months and all the job listings I've found for my skill levels are way below what I was making. Employers today know that they can get us cheap and it reflects in the salaries that are being offered.
- Tish Dudley Toussaint, Facebook
After being laid off at the beginning of the year, my husband and I have figured out how much we need to live in a lifestyle that is 'comfortable' for us. I'd take a deep pay cut to be employed with insurance again. I would not, work the same hours, nor expect to lead as large a team as I did previously for a pay cut. But, having said that, if I had been given a choice of a pay cut to keep my job, I would have taken it.
- Cheryl Barker, LinkedIn